Money 101 for Parents and Teens

Many millionares and billionares got their start as teenagers by investing right, and starting the right business at the right time. All teens get money in some way, whether it is through an allowance, gifts, jobs, or a combination of the above. But it is important to begin good habits at an early age. It […]

Many millionares and billionares got their start as teenagers by investing right, and starting the right business at the right time. All teens get money in some way, whether it is through an allowance, gifts, jobs, or a combination of the above. But it is important to begin good habits at an early age. It is important to begin saving early, but continue spending, but doing so healthy.

This infographic shares income and spending habits of teenagers. It is a great comparison of various methods of income and spending habits of teenagers. Use this infographic and ask your students to write down how they compare. Ask you students to think about how their current spending habits and savings plans will help them or hurt them in the future.

It is important for everyone to continue spending money, but use this as an opportunity to share with your students healthy spending and saving habits. Also, share with them how to use a credit card wisely to help their credit. Encourage your students to continue their hard work in order to to a healthy financial future, as well as to encourage the economy, and most importantly, have a fun and comfortable life.


Coolest Thing I’ve Seen in a While

I have felt bad about not blogging lately. It’s partly because of travel, but mostly because of three projects that have drawn most of my attention lately. One of those has been preparation for the NCTIES conference later this week. It’s a special event for me because NCTIES is the ISTE affiliate for my home state and also because it is an especially successful conference. This year’s featured speakers include Richard Byrne, Patrick Crispen (regular), Rushton Hurley, Peggy Sheehy, Kathy Schrock (regular) and Tammy Worcester, with a kickoff keynote by Ken Shelton.

One of my presentations will explore instructional potentials of data visualization and infographics and in preparing for this session, I found one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while.  I ran across the link via Nathan Yau’s Flowing Data blog, where he quoted Jeffrey Winter…

There was an idea floating around that continuously following the first link of any Wikipedia article will eventually lead to “Philosophy.” This sounded like a reasonable assertion, one that makes a certain amount of sense in retrospect: any description of something will typically use more general terms. Following that idea will eventually lead… somewhere.

Winter’s explanation of how he accomplished a test for this idea made it sound easier than I’m sure it was.  But the outcome was an intriguing mashup where you can type in a word or numerous words separated by comas, and his app will thread through the first link in each linked-to article until it reaches Philosophy.

Sitting in Starbucks, I looked for logical connections between Starbucks, coffee and caffeine. (click img to enlarge)

What struck me as I played with this data visualization, was how this operation meshes with our notions of curriculum and of libraries.

When information is scarce and education is defined by knowledge delivery, then the job of curriculum and of libraries is to package content into subjects and units and dewey decimal classifications.

When I watch seemly unrelated topics threading their way to a common subject and re-examine Boyack, Klavans and Palen’s Map of Science, which shows how various disciplines are interconnected by citations, it seems clear to me how schools and libraries need to become more like learning-literacy playgrounds than managed corals.

But that’s me!


We Don’t Trust What We Can’t See…

The other day I featured an infographic on IGad (InfoGrapthic-a-Day) that illustrated the declining or less than satisfactory level of confidence that the American public has in it’s education system. This was probably not an appropriate graphic to share on what was, for many, their first day back to school. But hey, what do we have to be exuberant about in the world of education today, besides the intrinsic joys and rewards of teaching — and having a job teaching. So I posted this graphic because I think it’s conversation needs starting.

At the top of the graphic is a not quite so striking decline in confidence since 1977 — 54% then to 38% today. Of course, we understand that this is merely a symptom of things going on that are much deeper and broader than what’s happening in real classrooms. What I found most interesting with this part of the graphic was that the decline was not steady. I dumped the data into one of my favorite graphing tools, OmniGraphSketcher, and produced the line graph at the right. It would be interesting to correlate the rather dramatic ups and downs of confidence levels with what was going on outside of our classrooms — the stories that were being told by people who had influence to gain by telling those stories.

What I found most interesting about the entire graphic was the portion that compared confidence values for other institutions, ranging from the military, with a confidence rate of 78%, down to, well, need I say, congress, with only 12% expressing confidence. ..and where did they find them?

Looking at the ranking on the right, I see an interesting, though blurry difference between the institutions earning more than 40% confidence, and the ones getting less. The military protects us and we feel it. The threat of terrorism is on our minds. We walk into small businesses everyday and we encounter the police, our churches and doctors every week — or there is a potential of encountering them.

On the other hand, most of us have very little direct weekly experience with the inner workings of our courts, schools, criminal justice system, newspapers, banks and congress. It is worth noting that Americans experience a significantly greater likelihood of being in jail, prison, or on probation or parole than we do of graduating from high school this year. ((“Total Correctional Population.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice, 7 Sep 2011. Web. 7 Sep 2011.)) ((“Fast Facts.” National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Education Department, n.d. Web. 7 Sep 2011.))

Admittedly, there is a lot of gray space in this distinction. But my point is this. People will be less confident in something that they do not see regularly, or they can be more easily be dissuaded of their confidence by political spin. We’ve got to do a better job of inviting the public into our schools. We’ve got to sell them on “21st Century Learning” by showing it to them. We’ve got to inspire confidence by making people wish they could go back to high school. We need to ask ourselves the question, “How do we inspire confidence?

Data? ..or Performance?”

Are they addicted to their technology?

This from a recent Mashable post,

It’s clear that today’s students rely heavily on electronic devices even when they’re not incorporated in the class room. In one survey of college students, 38% said they couldn’t even go 10 minutes without switching on some sort of electronic device. ((Kessler, Sarah. “How Students Use Technology.”Mashable. Mashable, Inc., 10 Aug 2011. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <>.))

As a writer, I know how we try to seek out words and wording for impact readers, so it is possible that Sarah Kessler did not mean to imply some sort of Un-natural relationship between students and their devices. Yet that’s what it sounds like and I suspect it’s what some people want to hear, that “my child is addicted to his cell phone!”

Is this three individuals or a meeting that’s larger than it appears? (Flickr photo (cc) by Susan NYC

I don’t know, but it makes more sense to me that they can’t go “10 minutes without switching on some sort of electronic device,” not because they want to listen to a hum or see the glow. It’s because that device is where their friends are. Perhaps asking how long they can go without their tech is more like asking, “How long could you last in solitary confinement?” Possibly, my generation could last longer, but there’s probably less reason for alarm in that. (TINTSTWSNBV) ((This is not to say that we should not be vigilant))

As an aside, the blog entry I’ve quoted includes an infographic.  If you want to read it, I would suggest that you do so with a critical eye and especially with the intent of the publishers in mind.  My concerns were best described by Dan Meryer in Stop Linking to “Top 100 Blogs” Lists.

What’s the Next Big Thing (@ ISTE)

Infographic of Word Trends for ISTE 2011
I’ve seen the question a number of times on Twitter, “What’s going to be the big ‘buzz’ at ISTE this year?” In the past, it has been blogging, podcasting, video games, MUVEs, and others. This year, well who knows. But to get a glance, I collected the text for all of the session, poster, and workshop descriptions and anayized them for key terms and phrases. It’s something that I do frequently, but this is the first time I have compared an upcoming conference with a past one — in this case, it’s ISTE 2011 with ISTE NECC 2008.

The attached file is a PDF that includes a word cloud of the most used terms in this year’s program descriptions, and a count of the occurrences of session descriptions with key words that I scanned for back in 2008. There is little that is scientific about this, but interesting, none the less.

For me, I was surprised to have seen infographic mentioned only once in all of the session descriptions. Although we’ve had infographics almost for ever (think The Periodic Tables), it has emerged as something of a buzz in recent months. I’ve started a new blog called IGAD (InfoGraphic A Day), where I feature different graphics or datasets that could be translated into graphics.  Today’s infographic is “A Better Life Index.”

Another one that I was surprised not to see a lot of (and not entirely disappointed) was QR-Codes. In state and regional conferences I’ve been a part of recently, QR-Codes seem to have become something of the rage. Again, they’ve been around since 1995, but only recently have educators been testing out applications in classrooms and schools. I think they have a place in education, but there are logistical limitations, and do only one thing really well — they can turn a flat surface into a hyperlink for smart phone users.

See you at ISTE 2011!

Six Reasons Why Textbooks Should Stop Being Textbooks


Earlier this week, I wrote about a guest-authored Mashable blog post, 6 Reasons Tablets Are Ready for the Classroom. The author, a representative of McGraw-Hill, seemed to be saying (and these are my words) that perhaps the textbook industry is ready to go tablet (digital) — the fact of which I am not so sure. In my post, I critiqued the six reasons and I also engaged a bit in comments discussion at Mashable — and I took a bit of heat for suggesting that the textbook industry may actually be a useful part of the formula for textbook 2.0. But let me accentuate the “may” part of that statement.

Yesterday, Mashable author, Sarah Kessler, wrote “The Case for Making Online Textbooks Open Source,” where she drew attention to programs at MIT and Carnegie Mellon that post lectures and other course materials online for free. She also shared an infographic (not linked) that compares the cost of traditional textbooks to open source course materials. (More about the Infographic, and its authors below — and don’t miss that part).

Kessler also described two barriers to the success of open source textbooks. She wrote that

..textbook authors must agree to have them distributed online without charging royalties — something that may work well in the software world, where engineers often work on projects while keeping a day job, but typically avoided by writers who put their sweat equity into one book at a time.

The question this raises in my mind is, “How many authors actually make a living as authors, doing it as a full-time job?” I suspect that the number is quite low, compared to the totality of books continuing to be published today. Most, like myself, write in order to subsidize our incomes and/or enhance our day jobs. It’s something that we do on the side, like a number of my college professors who wrote their own textbooks and had them stocked in the college bookstore for us to buy.

Kessler continued that

..books for K-12 classrooms must meet state standards, and most states don’t have procedures in place for approving open source textbooks.

OK, Why? Why do states have to approve textbooks? I know that part of it is to assure quality with regard to the state’ educational objectives. But I thought that at least in part, it was about the ability to buy in bulk and negotiate discounts? Am I wrong?

If i am not wrong, and the word “free” is inserted into the formula, does the need for bulk purchasing go away. And if quality is the issue, why do you need to create a system for evaluating instructional materials at the state level, when a system is already in place — teachers. Why can’t we trust teachers to select the instructional materials they need for their learners in their classrooms?

Here are six reasons why we don’t need textbooks.

  1. We have the Technology (still shamefully inequitable)
    …and I’m not just talking about iPads. Many teachers tell me that they have completely dropped their textbooks, replacing them with their ever evolving and growing Moodle or Blackboard sites. This makes a lot of sense to me — textbook as platform to be populated by the very teachers who will use them. Does such a platform already exist? Please comment.
  2. We have the Content
    What textbooks do is to take knowledge, that’s written someplace else, and present it in a way that satisfies the needs of the consumer. Can’t teachers respectfully and with regard for the law select, shape, mash and mix existing digital content into modules or learning objects for their learners. Might we even see commercial modules, produced by what use to be the textbook industry, that can be selected and purchased, for a nominal fee, from an app store style of content market place.
  3. We have the Expertise
    …in every town and every school and classroom. Out of a hundred high school teachers in the U.S.,
    • only two has less than a bachelor’s degree.
    • 52 of them have at least a master’s degree.
    • 53 of them have taught for at least 10 years and
    • 24 of them have taught for more than 20 years. ((United States. Percentage of public school teachers of grades 9 through 12, by field of main teaching assignment and selected demographic and educational characteristics: 2007-08. Washington: , 2009. Web. 20 May 2011. <>.))

    That is an enormous reservoir of knowledge and experience.

  4. We have the Environment for Community
    No one needs to do it alone. It’s not open source because it’s free. It’s open source because it’s free to be improved — by a community. Many programmers have contributed to the development of Firefox, and many more have developed extensions that add new functionality. Following the same model, communities of teachers can contributed well researched and carefully designed modules for portions of their curriculum (or standards if you insist) that they know well and about which they are especially passionate. Then they can collect models from other teachers and assemble them into the platform, constantly re-evaluating the materials, editing them, adding new ones in, deleting old and less effective ones out.
  5. Learners should be a Part of the Process
    How many of us assemble our own library of digital resources (bookmarks) and make the curation of that library a part of our working process? How many of us do it well? Might content curation become a 21st century skill that learners should be developing as part of their formal education? Should students be guided in growing their own digital textbooks into personal digital libraries?
  6. And It’s about Basics
    — reading, writing, and arithmetic. But I’m thinking of an expanded version that reflects an increasingly networked, digital, and info-abundant world. Do textbooks, from the bookstore reflect today’s prevailing information environment? No! But do digital textbooks, that are stamped “Approved” by some government agency, reflect an increasingly dynamic information environment and rapidly changing world any better? I think not! Teachers should be collecting, evaluating, editing and assembling their own textbooks, because it requires them to practice and talk about the contemporary literacy skills of a digital and networked information landscape — in front of their learners.

And finally, that last one, number six, brings us back to the Infographic. Here’s the url ( to the graphic. I’m not linking to it and you shouldn’t either. The graphic compares the cost of various configurations of textbooks and the savings of going open source. But as I examined the graphic, I began to get that irritating twitch that happens when what I’m reading seems to be trying to convince me of something rather than inform me. The numbers were rather precise, but there were no sources given. At the bottom was the statement, “All data based on current averages” and a list of web sites, none of which seem to include the data displayed on the graphic. Doing some URL disconstruction, I got out to the hosting web site, (ols), and that domain,, seemed familiar.

Doing more digging, I found a comment, in the original Mashable blog post by Canadian teacher David Wees linking to this blog post by California educator Dan Meyer’s. In the blog post, Meyers uncovers how ols uses infographics like this and lists of the “100 top teacher blogs” or “100 top Administrator Blogs” to get bloggers like me to link to them, getting ols to the top of Google searches performed by people who are looking to get degrees without classrooms. This way, ols gets to becomes a link in the cash cow that online education appears to have become, and sometimes with the help of fraudulent practices. So don’t link to ols, and do link to Dan Meyers.

If you have other resources or ideas regarding the evolution of the textbook, please comment.

My First Stab at Infographics & an Announcement

I’ve been fascinated by infographics and data visualization for a few years now and have started doing some presenting on the topic at conferences. But one of the questions that keeps arising and perhaps the greatest barrier to making stories with numbers and images is, “How do you do the design?” The tech is easy. It’s crafting the story or message that’s hard.

So I decided to try making one myself, hoping that some reasonable process might come out of it. I’m somewhat pleased with the graphic, as a first time effort, but can’t say that I have any handle on a design process. All I can say is that it involves a lot of trashing the whole thing and starting all over again.  I guess its about a willingness to play and permission to make mistakes and do it again differently.

You can click the smaller image to the right to get the full 1024 x 6000 pixel infographic. The graphic is based on a March 2011 study conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications and Stanford University. They surveyed just over 1,100 18 to 24 year olds about their education experience.

This also seems like a good time to finally mention a new blog I’ve been working on where I plan to post infographics that have interested me.  My plan is to post a link to one a day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, something that I suspect might be used within some instructional discipline — and then a data source for creating infographics on Thursday, and something for the fun of it on Friday.  This who excercize has informed me of the vast quantity of infographics that are being produced today — not all of it good.

So give a gander at an Infographic-a-Day at

Hope to have another one coming out in the next little bit to feature a video a day, which will be curated by my son.

Snake Oil?

This is an intriguing interactive infographic developed by superstar David McCandless in the area of health. It represents various dietary supplements as balloons that rise or fall based on the evidence that they actually have positive effects on various and selectable ailments and conditions.

McCandless says,

This image is a “balloon race”. The higher a bubble, the greater the evidence for its effectiveness. But the supplements are only effective for the conditions listed inside the bubble.

You might also see multiple bubbles for certain supps. These is because some supps affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there’s strong evidence that Green Tea is good for cholesterol levels. But evidence for its anti-cancer effects is conflicting. In these cases, we give a supp another bubble.

The backend data is stored and the graphic is generated out of this Google Doc. From here, new research can be added in, adapting the graphic. Source documents are included in this file.


Solar System Scope

Not all infographics can be printed on paper. Some can move and some are interactive, like this project, brought to my attention by Andrew Vande Moere’s in Information Aesthetics. You have a 3D map of the Solar System, that you can flick around, and even zoom in on planets and other astronomical objects.

From the article,

Solar System Scope [] offers an intuitive 3D interactive view of our solar system.

While the application is able to show the real-time celestial positions of planets and constellations moving about in heliocentric, geocentric and panoramic views, it also allows the changing of various parameters, inclusive of time, and the measuring of distances between planets.

Blog Article: Solar System Scope: a 3D Interactive View of our Solar System

Main Site: Solar System Scope

The State of Twitter

Are you on Twitter? After viewing this infographic, you might ask, “Why not?” From the Mashable blog post I got this from,

There is no doubt that Twitter has been a runaway success. Add to their rapid growth the recently announced @anywhere platform, and plans for further international expansion, and it comes as no surprise that the company is not looking to sell — at least within the next 2 years.

While the site’s growth has certainly been impressive and it has reached the point of non-displacement, there are some interesting hidden truths about Twitter and its users. The following graphic takes a look at Twitter’s path to 10 billion tweets, what we have learned about its users and what they’ve been talking about along the way.

Blog Link: The Current State of Twitter

Graphic Link: The Path to 10 Billion

Data Sources: HubSpot, Mashable, Pingdom, RJMetrics, Twitter, Quantcast